By Manny Otiko
Legal proceedings against police officers in two high-profile cases involving the deaths of young Black men are moving forward. A judge recently rejected a request to dismiss charges against New York police officer Peter Liang who killed Akai Gurley, an unarmed Black man, in the stairwell of a local housing project. Brooklyn, NY judge Danny K. Chun said he found the evidence “legally proficient” to proceed with the case, said The Huffington Post. Liang is facing several charges, including manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.
Liang, a rookie police officer with less than 18 months experience, accidentally shot Gurley while patrolling a high-crime housing project in New York. Liang’s gun discharged and the ricocheting bullet struck Gurley, a 28-year-old father of two, in the chest.
The case has several different racial angles to it. Gurley is yet another Black man fatally shot by the New York police. But in this case, the police quickly admitted they were at fault. According to The New York Times, Police Commissioner William Bratton declared Gurley was innocent.
Liang, who comes from a Chinese immigrant family, has been supported by the Asian community, who feel he has been scapegoated. They claim Liang was charged, while white officers involved in other police shootings have not been indicted. A White House petition calling for charges against Liang to be dropped gathered 100,000 signatures.
According to The Huffington Post, Gurley’s family were happy the case was moving forward. They say Gurley’s killing is part of a larger problem with the New York Police Department (NYPD). Prosecutors say Liang shouldn’t have had his finger on the trigger of his gun and that Liang didn’t call an ambulance after Gurley was shot.
“We will not stop until Peter Liang is in jail. We will not stop until— for every Black, brown life that has been brutalized and murdered by the NYPD—everyone has to be held accountable,” said Hertencia Petersen, Gurley’s aunt.
In another police case, an autopsy report anonymously leaked to The Baltimore Sun presented more damning evidence against six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, who died from injuries sustained in a police van. Gray was arrested by Baltimore police following a foot pursuit in April. However, at the time of his arrest, he was pictured being lifted to his feet and put in a police van. A few minutes later, Gray could not talk or breathe. It was later revealed his larynx had been crushed and his spinal cord was severed.
Gray’s death lead to widespread protests and riots in Baltimore. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and called out the National Guard.
The Baltimore Sun reported the autopsy stated Gray died “through acts of omission” by the police.
“Although officers loaded Gray into the van on his abdomen, the medical examiner surmised Gray may have gotten to his feet, then been thrown into a wall when the van abruptly changed direction. Because Gray wasn’t belted in and had his wrists and ankles shackled he was at risk for an unsupported fall during acceleration or deceleration of the van,’” reported The Guardian.
Prosecuting attorney Marilyn Mosby was not happy about the leaked report. She has already seen the report and planned to turn it over to defense lawyers by Friday, reported The Guardian.
“I want to make it very clear that the state’s attorney’s office did not release the Freddie Gray autopsy report,” she said. “As I have repeatedly stated, I strongly condemn anyone with access to trial evidence who has leaked information prior to the resolution of this case.”